Islam teaches that Hell is a real place prepared by God for those who do not believe in Him, rebel against His laws, and reject His messengers. Hell is an actual place, not a mere state of mind or a spiritual entity. The horrors, pain, anguish, and punishment are all real, but different in nature than their earthly counterparts. Hell is the ultimate humiliation and loss, and nothing is worse than it. Allah says:
ﭽ ﮫ ﮬ ﮭ ﮮ ﮯ ﮰ ﮱﯓ ﯔ ﯕ ﯖ ﯗ ﯘ ﭼ
Meaning: “Our Lord, indeed whoever You admit to the Fire - You have disgraced him, and for the wrongdoers there are no helpers.” (Q3:V192). He the almighty also said: ﭽ ﭞ ﭟ ﭠ ﭡ ﭢ ﭣ ﭤ ﭥ ﭦ ﭧ ﭨ ﭩ ﭪﭫ ﭬ ﭭ ﭮ ﭼ
Meaning: “Do they not know that whoever opposes Allah and His Messenger - that for him is the fire of Hell, wherein he will abide eternally? That is the great disgrace.” (Q9:V63).
There is difference of opinion among scholars regarding the eternity of hellfire. While majority of scholars are of the opinion that hellfire will remain eternal and will not perish, a few scholars see the opposite. Those who opine that Hellfire will perish base their argument on the following proofs:
That Allah the almighty informed us about the eternal bliss of the people of paradise and that they will abide therein forever in several verses of the Quran. However, as for the people of Hellfire and their punishment, he did not inform us about their eternal stay in it. Rather, He only said its people will not come out of it.
That Allah mentioned Hellfire with restrictions that show that it is temporary. Such verses include: ﭽ ﮱ ﯓ ﯔ ﯕ ﭼ
Meaning: “In which they will remain for ages” (Q78:V23).
He the Most High also said: ﭽﮟ ﮠ ﮡ ﮢ ﮣ ﮤ ﮥ ﮦ ﮧ ﮨﮩ ﮪ ﮫ ﮬ ﮭ ﮮ ﭼ
“He said, the Fire is your residence, wherein you will abide eternally, except for what Allah wills.” (Q6:V128). And the saying of Allah:
ﭽ ﯪ ﯫ ﯬ ﯭ ﯮ ﯯ ﯰ ﯱ ﯲ ﯳﯴ ﯵ ﯶ ﯷ ﯸ ﯹ ﯺ ﭼ
“[They will be] abiding therein as long as the heavens and the earth endure, except what your Lord should will.” (Q11:V107). All these three verses indicate something temporary or conditional. This is unlike verses regarding paradise which are unrestricted and unconditional.
3-That this is the view of some companions of the Prophet like Umar, Ibn Mas’ud, Ibn Abbass and others.
As for those who argue that hellfire will not perish, they base their argument on the following proofs:
That Allah expressly stated that the people of Hellfire will remain in it forever in three separate verses. These verses are:
ﭽ ﮬ ﮭ ﮮ ﮯ ﮰ ﮱ ﯓ ﯔ ﯕ ﯖ ﯗ ﯘ ﯙ ﯚ ﯛ ﯜ ﯝ ﯞ ﯟﯠ ﭼ
“Indeed, those who disbelieve and commit wrong [or injustice] - never will Allah forgive them, nor will He guide them to a path. Except the path of Hell; they will abide therein forever.” (Q4:V168-9).
ﭽ ﭣ ﭤ ﭥ ﭦ ﭧ ﭨ ﭩ ﭪ ﭫ ﭬ ﭭﭮ ﭯ ﭰ ﭱ ﭲ ﭳ ﭴ ﭼ
Meaning: “Indeed, Allah has cursed the disbelievers and prepared for them a Blaze. Abiding therein forever, they will not find a protector or a helper.” (Q33:V64-5)
ﭽ ﮪ ﮫ ﮬ ﮭ ﮮﮯ ﮰ ﮱ ﯓ ﯔ ﯕ ﯖ ﯗ ﯘ ﯙ ﯚ ﯛ ﯜ ﭼ
“And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger - then indeed, for him is the fire of Hell; they will abide therein forever.” (Q72:V23). Ibn katheer in his commentary on this verse said: “meaning they will abide therein continuously and they will not come out of it.”
Authentic narrations from the Prophet- peace be upon him- attesting to this fact. These narrations include the following:
The hadith narrated by Al-bukhari and Muslim in which the Prophet said “…then I will come for the fourth time and say: O my Lord no one is left in the hell fire except he whom the Qur'an has restrained i.e eternally doomed. (Albukhari: 4476, Muslim:322)
The hadith narrated by Muslim in which the Prophet said: “as for the people of hellfire, they neither die nor live” (Muslim: 306). Imam An-nawawee said in his commentary on the above hadith: “ this means that the people of hellfire will abide in hell forever and they will not die neither will they live a life beneficial to them”
Consensus of the scholars. A lot of great Islamic scholars have reported the consensus of scholars on this matter. Prominent among them are Imam Ibn hazm in his book “maratibul Ijmaa’”, Alqurtubee, Abu zaid Alqeerawaanee in his book Aljaami’, At-tahaawee, and among contemporary scholars sheikh ibn Baaz, and many others.
The most authentic opinion:
The most authentic opinion in this matter is that hellfire will not perish. This is because of the strength of the evidences given by scholars who are of this opinion and the weakness of the evidences of their opponents as will be seen below:
As for their claim that Allah did not mention in the Quran that the people of hell will abide therein forever, this has been clearly debunked by the three verses stated above by those who argue that hellfire will perish.
As for the verses they mentioned to support their argument such as the saying of Allah: “In which they will remain for ages” (Q78:V23). This verse does not mean they will remain in fire for an appointed time rather it means they will be administered a particular type of punishment for ages. Then the punishment will be changed to another type. In other words the verse is referring to the type of punishment mentioned in the subsequent verse: “They will not taste therein [any] coolness or drink. Except scalding water and [foul] purulence” (Q78:V24-25). Likewise, the second and third verses they mentioned where Allah said: “The Fire is your residence, wherein you will abide eternally, except for what Allah wills.” (Q6:V128) and “[They will be] abiding therein as long as the heavens and the earth endure, except what your Lord should will.” (Q11:V107). Scholars of tafseer (Quran commentary) have explained that the “exception of what Allah wills” mentioned in the verses refer to the period before their entrance into the hell fire. Furthermore, Allah also mentioned the same exception regarding paradise as in surah Hud:
ﭽ ﯻ ﯼ ﯽ ﯾ ﯿ ﰀ ﰁ ﰂ ﰃ ﰄ ﰅ ﰆ ﰇ ﰈ ﰉ ﰊﰋ ﰌ ﰍ ﰎ ﰏ ﭼ
Meaning: “They will be in Paradise, abiding therein as long as the heavens and the earth endure, except what your Lord should will - a bestowal uninterrupted.” (Q11:V108), but none of them is saying that the people of paradise will not stay permanently in paradise.
As for their claim that this is the opinion of some companions of the Prophet such as Umar, Ibn Mas’ud, Ibn Abbass and others, it has not been authentically narrated from them. Rather what is authentic from them is that believers who enter hellfire as a result of some sins they have committed will not remain therein forever.